Audi will enter three R18 e-tron quattro cars in the WEC race at Belgium’s iconic Spa racetrack on May 3, round two of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The team having their work cut out for them following the accident damage sustained by the two cars in the season opener at Silverstone.
The two accidents at the British track were unfortunate for Audi in two respects; for the first time ever, the Audi team, had to endure the retirement of all cars and the total loss of valuable championship points and the incidents caused considerable vehicle damage with the monocoques of the two hybrid sports cars being severely damaged. Consequently, cars number ‘1’ and ‘2’ had to be prepared again completely from scratch. “We’ve got to prepare two new cars between now and Spa, which imposes an extreme load on the squad. Then we’re going to concentrate on running an impeccable race. At Spa, we want to rectify the unfortunate race at Silverstone. In the past years, Spa was a very good track for us” said Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich Head of Audi Motorsport.
In comparison, the preparation of the third race car seems almost a routine task. Audi has traditionally been using the 6-hour race at Spa to prepare its Le Mans squad for the year’s most important endurance race. Whereas Lucas di Grassi/Loïc Duval/Tom Kristensen (R18 #1) and Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer (R18 #2) compete in all eight World Championship rounds, the #3 R18 e-tron quattro will run only at Spa and in the Blue Riband Le Mans 24 Hours. Spa will see Italian Marco Bonanomi returning to the race car cockpit alongside whom, Filipe Albuquerque will be celebrating his WEC debut with Audi after switching from touring cars to sports cars last winter. British sportscar ace Oliver Jarvis has been released from the race at Spa and the test day at Le Mans as he will be battling for Championship points in the Japanese Super GT racing series at the same time. For the Le Mans 24 Hours, he will return to the R18 e-tron cockpit as the team-mate of Albuquerque and Bonanomi.
The #3 R18 will have a different body that can be recognized at first glance by the longer rear overhang. Its use in Belgium is very valuable for the Audi engineers, as the data generated by car #3 assists in validating the downforce simulations for Le Mans which Audi previously performed. By the same token, the team can test how to handle the special body version and other technical modifications in racing conditions.
All three Audi driver squads are united in pursuing a single aim on the 7 kilometre circuit in the Ardennes with its unique combination of turns. Following the victories in 2012 and 2013, Audi is set on battling for the best positions at Spa again in 2014. “After the somewhat rocky start of the season at Silverstone, it’s now particularly important for us to focus on our next tasks until Le Mans.” Said Chris Reinke (Head of LMP) “The squad has to get used to its processes. But Spa is more than just a test for Le Mans. We aim to win in Belgium and score points for the WEC”.
The fastest single lap set by Tom Kristensen in qualifying at Silverstone and the best race lap achieved by André Lotterer show that Audi’s diesel hybrid sports car is fast on a single lap in the battle with Porsche and Toyota. “Every race driver looks forward to the challenge of mastering a track like Spa. We’ve got to finish and score many points. This is particularly important because our tally of points is still blank after Silverstone.” – Tom Kristensen.
In Belgium, both Audi and the WEC fans will be able to see for the first time whether this also strategically applies across the entire race distance when the effects of the energy regulations and the different ratings of the three hybrid concepts manifest themselves in the field.
Spa overhead photo © copyright Nathanael Majoros.